Are you a smoker… and a singer? Has it been an ongoing nagging question if smoking does affect your singing voice?
Or are you just getting started with singing and still light up a cigarette once in a while?
Sure, smoking on stage looks cool and can make you feel like a rock star. But is it really a good idea?
There’s a lot talking about vocal health and how to keep in shape to ensure you’ll have a long-lasting singing career.
Does smoking affect your singing voice? If yes, to which extent? Or is it all smoke and mirrors?
In the next few paragraphs, I will address these questions and shed a light on this sensitive discussion.
Are Singers Prone To Smoking?
Currently, there are one billion smokers worldwide.
While you might think that the lifestyle of artists…like heavy partying… would show a higher rate of smokers, recent statistical outcomes paint a different picture.
According to multiple surveys, singers are in the mid-range of all professions, with ranging smoker rates between 14 to 17%.
Graphic by vapourlites.com
Ongoing trends since 1974 the proportion of smokers, who have quit, overtakes the proportion of current smokers.
When you look at the vast amount of anti-smoking campaigns and restrictions that were put in place over the last years…it’s no wonder at all.
Smoke Your Way to A Lower Voice
I found some interesting studies conducted with smokers and non-smokers.
They measured different vocal parameters, e.g. fundamental frequency to analyze the impact of smoking on the voice.
Results of a Brazilian study showed, that in a relatively short time period (< 10 years), fundamental frequency parameters were significantly decreased in all smoking groups.
The effect was especially seen in female smokers, which had a frequency decrease of 14Hz on average, compared to the non-smoker group.
So, what that really means is…
If you smoke for a couple of years, your voice gets deeper and you lose some of your brilliant high notes. The vocal change is considered to be a result of vocal edemas due to tobacco exposure.
But you are not alone…
Did You Know That These Artists Smoke?
When you take a look at some popular singers, you may be surprised, who else is a smoker or used to smoke.
Nat King Cole
Enrico Caruso (!)
Ronnie James Dio
The Rat Pack
It’s very rare that you hear the story of a singer who gave up smoking due to vocal problems.
And while I don’t want to sugarcoat smoking… let me ask you some interesting questions here…
– How could one of the best tenors of all time, Enrico Caruso, be a heavy smoker and still deliver the best high C performances?
– How could someone like Dean Martin, who eventually died of lung cancer, keep his unique smooth voice throughout his entire career?
Probably they knew…
How To Smoke And Still Sing Like An Angel
If, despite the risk of seriously harming your health, you can’t or don’t want to quit smoking, you should take some actions to keep your voice in good shape.
The best prevention for a damaged voice is singing with a solid and healthy technique.
If you learn how to use the airflow properly and sing efficiently with only minor engagement, you will enter a world of maximum outcome with only little effort.
Moreover, alcohol has a much deeper immediate impact on the vocal cords than cigarettes will ever do.
Remember the last morning after a boozy night. When you woke up to answer the phone…and you sounded like Barry White?
Well, that’s the result of swollen vocal cords. And if you want to double that effect, smoking and drinking will do it for you.
I Was a Smoker For 15 Years
Hell yes, no need to hold anything back here.
I smoked for fifteen years. My daily dose of nicotine was roughly one pack.
You see, I’m happy, I finally quit. And it actually was much easier than I thought it would be in the first place.
Throughout my “smoking career”, I started taking voice lessons. Over the course of 10 years, smoking and singing overlapped. There was one single year, where I stopped smoking for the first time.
Well, I can only speak for myself. But interestingly I didn’t notice that big of a difference when I was still smoking and the time when I quit.
Neither did I have a clearer voice, nor did I experience more ease/more struggle within my given vocal range.
That lead me to my personal conclusion, that the effects smoking has on your vocal skills might probably not be as dramatic as claimed.
On the other hand…
I’ve never been a heavy-touring singer, who had to push himself to his limits… night after night. So, that might have had an additional impact on my roasted voice.
Without any doubt… smoking is an unhealthy habit…and can seriously harm your health.
There are ZERO good reasons why to smoke at all.
If you still do it… you should really quit! Like yesterday.
There’s actually a program that can help you with that. I recommend you check it out.
You know, where’s a will…there’s a way.
But if you take a closer look at the effects smoking can have on your singing voice, there is no one truth.
On the one hand… science proofed smoking over several years can cause vocal edemas, which then results in a lower voice.
On the other hand, there are multiple examples of famous singers, who heavily smoked and yet kept their voices on a high level throughout their entire careers.
However, there are some really good strategies to keep your singing voice in shape…even if you don’t want to wave goodbye to your daily dose of tobacco.
Second to none…
Singing with the proper technique will keep your voice healthy for many years.
1. Cigarette Smoking Trends Among U.S. Working Adult by Industry and Occupation: Findings From the 2004–2012 National Health Interview Survey; Nicotine Tob Res. 2015 May; 17(5): 599–606.
3. Office for national statistics: Adult smoking habits in the UK: 2017
4. Early effects of smoking on the voice:A multidimensional study; Med Sci Monit,2004;10(12):CR649-656
Did you like what you just read? Are you a singing smoker or have you quit, already?
Tell me what you think about this topic and/or your experiences. I’m curious!